How Far Apart Should Beehives Be Placed? Optimal Distances Explained

As wonderful as beekeeping is, it’s not natural. Sure, you could practice natural beekeeping, allow them to build their comb, and look for natural remedies for pest management, but it’s still unnatural.

Professor Tom Seeley talks about his early works mapping out wild honey bee colonies in a forest. He found a ratio of 2.5 colonies per square mile. So if you have five honeybee colonies, you’re already in “violation” of that law. Since we can’t follow the natural bee laws to the letter, we find ways to cause them minimal distress.

That is the focus of this article, how to place hives in our apiaries that allows us to work them comfortably but accommodate core bee behavior. Proper placement of beehives ensures the health and productivity of the bees and reduces issues related to drift and overcrowding.

While there isn’t a strict guideline for hive spacing, a good rule of thumb is to place beehives approximately 2 feet apart, as this reduces the risk of drift without sacrificing accessibility for beekeepers. However, different beekeepers often employ varying techniques based on their specific needs and preferences, with commercial beekeepers sometimes placing hives even closer together on a pallet. 

Factors Determining Beehive Placement

Bee Foraging Range

When placing beehives, think about the bees’ foraging range. Bees can travel up to 3 miles from their beehive to find resources. The closer the beehives are placed to each other, the more they will compete for the same resources. If you have to have your hives close together, find a location with enough nectar and pollen to support your colonies or provide supplementary feed when nature fails.

Disease and Parasite Prevention

Spacing beehives correctly are crucial in preventing the spread of diseases and parasites, which can lead to a decline in the bee population or loss of the entire colony. When the hives are too close together, it may create opportunities for disease transmission. We recommend placing them at least 6 inches apart when you have a pair of hives together, but 2 to 3 feet apart if space permits.

Access to Water and Sunlight

Proper access to water and sunlight is essential for a healthy, productive hive. Bees need water to cool their hive and feed their larvae. Additionally, they need sunlight for warmth and to help navigate. Position the beehive entrances to face south, southeast, or east for optimal sunlight exposure. The bees need a nearby water source, such as a pond, stream, or shallow water dish.

Local Regulations and Neighbors

When placing your beehive, check local regulations and consider your neighbors. Some areas have specific guidelines on beehive placement. These restrictions help you avoid potential conflicts. Ensure your hives are positioned away from everyday human activity and provide enough space for bees to thrive without causing discomfort to others in the area.

Ideal Distance Between Beehives

A good rule of thumb for placing beehives is to space them at least 2 feet apart. This distance helps to minimize the risk of drift, which is when bees accidentally enter a neighboring hive which can affect productivity and spread pests and diseases.

In addition to spacing, it’s also crucial to consider accessibility for inspection and maintenance purposes. Ensure enough room around the hives for comfortable maneuvering, especially when wearing a bee suit and carrying tools. A pair of hives can be spaced as close as six inches but have a couple of feet of space on one or two sides for equipment handling and movement.

Ultimately, the ideal distance between beehives may vary based on the number of hives, available space, and the beekeeper’s preferences. 

Beehive Placement Techniques

Bee Stands and Benches

Using bee stands and benches is convenient for the hobbyist beekeeper. As you set up the hive stands, whether they are cinderblocks or something a little fancier, it’s easy to measure the distance between stands. 

Benches are slightly better because they provide you with working space at a comfortable height. When carrying out inspections, placing boxes on the ground and lifting them when you’re closing up can strain your back. If you use benches, there are ways to reduce drifting, for example, place the hives facing different directions. Alternatively, paint different designs around the entrance to help the bees differentiate between hives.

Bee Houses

One way to keep multiple beehives in one location is to create a bee house with shelves. Hives can be placed on top of each other without being in contact. It makes work easier for the beekeeper with a lot more bees in one vicinity, but the number of hives needs to match the area of nectar and pollen. A bee house is lockable, which keeps both humans and large mammals out. With the added vertical space, you can still maintain the two ft minimum horizontally.

When setting up your apiary, there are other factors to consider, such as windbreaks, exposure to sunlight, and accessibility. 


it’s generally recommended to place beehives at least 2 feet apart. This distance ensures that inspections and maintenance can be carried out without causing undue disruption to the colonies.

However, to reduce drifting, robbing, and agitation in the bees, a larger distance may be preferable. Placing beehives at least 10 yards apart can significantly decrease such risks, particularly for inexperienced beekeepers.

When placing beehives, it’s also essential to consider factors such as the hive’s orientation, level ground, and sun exposure, as these can greatly impact the productivity and health of your bees.

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